Part of what makes celebrating St. Patrick’s Day so enjoyable is the scores of traditions surrounding the holiday. The month of March typically ushers in parades, festive foods, lively music, and as much green attire as a person can handle.
As ubiquitous as it is each March, green attire has not always been symbolic of St. Patrick’s Day or Ireland. In fact, earlier depictions of St. Patrick had him royally clothed in a rich shade of blue. Some ancient Irish flags even sported the color blue. According to National Geographic, the color green became associated with St. Patrick’s Day in the 18th century, when the shamrock became a national symbol of Ireland. The color of the shamrock and Ireland’s natural landscape forever linked green to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the Emerald Isle.
There are reasons for donning green clothing on St. Patrick’s Day. If a person isn’t in green, he or she just may get pinched. According to Irish folklore, leprechauns wore green, and if anyone else wore the color that individual would be invisible to leprechauns. Leprechauns are ornery sorts who like to pinch anyone they can see. Therefore, by wearing green clothing, a person is sure to avoid a painful tweak. It’s not only the leprechauns who might do the pinching. Celebrants are inclined to pinch people who don’t wear green as a reminder that leprechauns might sneak up on them at any time.
Beyond shamrocks and leprechauns, other people are inclined to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day as a symbol of good luck and to honor their Irish ancestry. According to Brian Witt, the cultural exhibits coordinator for Milwaukee Irish fest, Irish Americans would wear green as a reminder that they are nationalists first and foremost. The Irish flag colors are green, white and orange. The green symbolizes Irish nationalism, the orange represents the ‘Orangemen’ of Northern Ireland, which is an Irish Protestant political society, and the white symbolizes peace.